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Human Rights for Rivers

Posted By Prucia Buscell, Wednesday, April 5, 2017
A New Framework for Fighting Pollution
The Ganges and Yamina Rivers are living entities, an Indian court has ruled, and that means these ancient waterways have the same legal status as humans.
Polluting them would be the same as physically harming a person, and top officials have been appointed the rivers' guardians to represent them and protect their rights. The BBC , the Guardian and other news outlets report that the high court in the Himalayan state of Uttarakhand has awarded the new legal status to both rivers, which have become heavily polluted by industrial waste, sewage and the results of rapid urbanization. 

Ganges River, Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh, India.
 The Ganges, which flows nearly 1,600 miles through India and Bangladesh, is considered sacred by Hindus and worshiped as a goddess. In 2007  it was ranked the world's fifth most polluted river, and environmentalists have said in some places it is so stagnant that it cannot support life. The Yamuna River is the longest and second largest tributary of the Ganges.

The River Goddess Ganga

Activists hope the new legal status will speed clean-up and preservation efforts. The change is not unprecedented. In New Zealand, a former national park on North Island was granted he rights of personhood when the government gave up formal ownership of the land after an agreement with Maori groups. The Whanganui River, which is important to Maori culture and tradition, received recognition a living entity with the rights of a person this March.

Chris Finlayson, New Zealand's attorney general and associate minister of Maori development, said the issue was resolved by taking the Maori mind-set into account. "In their worldview, 'I am the river and the river is me,'" he said. "Their geographic region is part and parcel of who they are."

Images from Wikipedia


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